James Thomas Bingham
James Bingham, choir director, organist, singer, and composer, retired in 2017 after serving as chair of the music department and director of choral activities at Washington Adventist University, formerly Columbia Union College, since 1994. Prior to this appointment, he chaired the music department and directed choirs at both Kingsway College in Canada from 1970-80 and Atlantic Union College from 1985-94.
In addition to his work at WAU, he also directs the Spencerville, Maryland, SDA Church Choir and has served as organist and choir director for the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church for the past thirteen years.
Bingham was born on July 27, 1945, in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, where he began his musical training and was strongly influenced by the active music program of his home church. He studied both violin and organ and was appointed assistant organist in his teenage years at the request of the church organist, continuing in that position until he graduated from high school.
It was during this time that his passion for choral music was ignited and as both singer and organist he had opportunity to develop his talents. This love of choral music only intensified during his undergraduate studies at Avondale College, N.S.W., where he sang in the famous Avondale Symphonic Choir.
After teaching at the Geelong and North Geelong High Schools for a year, Bingham moved to the United States to continue studies in organ performance at Andrews University. However, he was inspired by composer Blythe Owen and changed his major to music theory and composition. Upon receiving an M.A. from AU in 1970, he moved to Canada, where he began his work at KC.
The choral program flourished at KC and during his ten years of leadership the choir grew in prestige and traveled extensively. Bingham then returned to the United States to complete doctoral studies at AU. While there he served as organist and choir director at the First Congregational Church of Benton Harbor, Michigan. He accepted the position at AUC in 1985, having graduated from AU with a Ph.D. in education in 1984. Following nine years at AUC, he began his work at WAU.
Bingham's choirs recorded and toured extensively, performing in major concert halls, cathedrals, and churches in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, South Africa, and the United States. Like his prior choirs, the Columbia Collegiate Chorale and the Pro Musica of Washington Adventist University performed to both national and international acclaim.
The Pro Musica, a group founded by the late Paul Hill in 1967, more recently performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., under Bingham's direction. It was selected, along with the New England Symphonic Ensemble, to represent the United States at the 1995 Jerash International Festival, Jordan, under the sponsorship of Queen Noor of Jordan. The choir has recorded a number of CDs under the Ethereal Records label and has received highest praise for its recording of Louis Vierne's Messe Solennelle in c minor.
Bingham has arranged, orchestrated, and composed music for various combinations of instruments and voices. Of particular note is his composition Requiem, which was premiered in March 1999. A more recent work, Procession and Carols, A Christmas Suite for Women's Chorus and Harp, a seven movement composition, was published by Hinshaw Music in 2012.
In his role as chair of the music program at WAU, Bingham elevated performance and academic standards and infused the program with life and a sense of direction. His most recent achievements included presiding over the construction in 2010 and 2011 of the first phase of a new music facility, a pressing need at the school for over six decades, and the gaining of full accreditation for the music program from the National Schools of Music (NASM) in 2013.
Bingham received the prestigious Visionary Award for Excellence in the Musical Arts and Humanities given at the WAU Inaugural Visionary Gala, a black tie event held at the Congressional Country Club in September 2013. Just prior to receiving the award, the university president, Weymouth Spence, announced that the recital hall to be built in stage two of the Music Building will be known as the James T. Bingham Recital Hall.
Sources: Program notes and CD liners, numerous e-mail exchanges over several years; Columbia Union Visitor, August 2009, "Master Musicians," James Bingham, Jaclyn Day, 10, 11; Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 102-03; personal knowledge.